March 13, 1914

CON

George Eulas Foster (Minister of Trade and Commerce)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. FOSTER:

I think there are other

factors which tend to make it 4 p.m. very difficult, if not impossible, for farmers to ship as far as the terminal elevators. After harvesting their grain they are in many cases pressed for returns, and on that account they put their grain into a position to give them returns just as soon as possible. Some will sell to the street buyers, others who are less pressed may sell to the country elevator, others will load it on their platforms and send it through to Winnipeg and have it sold by the Grain Growers' Grain Company or by a commission man. But until farmers are a little more able than in the average they seem to be to-day to wait a considerable time for their returns, I do not think we will see very much of their grain sent by them through to the terminal elevators at the head of the lakes. In proportion as they do get into that position I believe there will be an inducement to them to hold their grain for a better price, and, having come to the conclusion to hold it at the terminal either for a longer or a shorter time, I think they will be disposed to put it into the keeping of the Government elevator in preference to the keeping of a grain company, unless the co-operative principle, or the class principle if you have a mind to call it so, induces them to join for their own purposes in buying companies, or to entrust their grain for sale to the Grain Growers' Grain Company. The Grain Growers' Grain Company have now a terminal at Fort William. There is this much, however, that I think we may say that differentiates the position to-day from the position three or four years ago. We have now four elements, where before we had only two. We have a company controlled by the producers themselves, the first cousin, so to speak, of the producers, which is in the grain business and which has a terminal of its own. That gives to all those who have faith in themselves and in the companies formed from amongst themselves a source of output and storage independent of the grain or transportation companies.

We have the Government elevators and we have the transportation companies' eleva-

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tors outside of the companies' elevators of which I have not spoken. Therefore we have four elements, the experience and the operation of which have tended to make a very much better condition in the grain transport than if we only had the two elements we had formerly. My hon. friend sees what I have in mind, although I have not expressed it very clearly.

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LIB
LIB

Edward Walter Nesbitt

Liberal

Mr. NESBITT:

My hon. friend states

that a great deal of this large increase is temporary and will come back in storage charges. What will he the net cost of the grain commission, salaries, rents, wages and contingencies under the Canada Grain Act, after the returns of which my hon. friend spoke?

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CON

George Eulas Foster (Minister of Trade and Commerce)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. FOSTER:

I will give my hon. friend a statement that will be inclusive, and he can take from it what information he desires.

In the eastern division the Salaries last year amounted to $12,780; in the western division the salaries amounted to $78,921, or a total of $91,701. The Board of Grain Commissioners cost $19,603. Adding that to the preceding, it gives for salaries $111,304 The largest cost of the western division is in the wages and contingencies which amounted to $211,941. In the eastern division, the contingencies-I gave the salaries before-amounted to $3,455. These were distributed between Montreal, Toronto, Peterborough, Kingston and Quebec. Out of that about $550 has to be taken that does not belong to the Grain Act. That would leave about $3,000 for the contingencies of the eastern division as regards grain.

The travelling expenses of the Board oi Grain Commissioners amounted to $3,855. Offices had to be got and furnished for the Grain Commission and the total for that, together with the contingencies of the office, amounted to $15,032. The printing and stationery amounted to $14,741. These are the principal items of the cost of the eastern and of the western divisions last year. For 1912-13, the cost in all amounted to $340,294. For the present fiscal year, up to January 31, the cost in all is $387,827. The fees collected in 1912-13 were $330,530. The fees collected up to January 31, of this year, are $420,077.

In 1911-12 there were 154,005 cars of grain inspected, in 1912-13 192,720 cars, and in 1913-14 up to January 31, there were 193,342 cars of grain inspected, leaving two months yet of inspection.

As to the contents, the number of bushels inspected for ten months for the current year is 244,782,000 as against last year's total of 241,405,000, as against 1907-08 of 98,000,000, showing the very great progress in the product and in the inspection.

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LIB

Edward Walter Nesbitt

Liberal

Mr. NESBITT:

For 1913-14 the expenditure of the Grain Commission was $387,827 and the fees collected were $420,077. Am I to understand that the fees more than paid the total cost of the Grain Commission?

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CON

George Eulas Foster (Minister of Trade and Commerce)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. FOSTER:

We are not yet where we can say whether they will or not. In thii3 case, as in the case of the elevators, you have the fat portion of the year in the way of fees gone, but you still have expenses until the fiscal year is over. In 1912-13, the deficit was nearly $10,000.

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LIB
CON

George Eulas Foster (Minister of Trade and Commerce)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. FOSTER:

Yes. This year we cannot tell what it is, although we hope to come out pretty nearly even.

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LIB

William Erskine Knowles

Liberal

Mr. KNOWLES:

If the minister makes a large profit this year on this business, what is he going to do with it?

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CON

George Eulas Foster (Minister of Trade and Commerce)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. FOSTER:

One thing that I think ought to be done, if the House will agree, is that the Finance Minister and the Grain Commission ought to have a good long holiday with a little to spend to requite them for the hard work they have put in to bring about this state of affairs. But I know the hon. gentleman (Mr. Knowles) will not subscribe to that. If there were a substantial profit, year by year, there are several things that might be done with it. If that profit covered maintenance, depreciation and other necessary items, and a surplus over, we might turn that surplus back on capital and diminish the capital account. What actually takes places is that this money goes into the consolidated revenue fund.

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LIB

Frank Oliver

Liberal

Mr. OLIVER:

The information the

minister has given us on the basis of his present knowledge would seem to bear out the view that was held, I think I may say, by the late Government in regard to terminal elevators, namely, that if it was intended that the Government should control the terminal business, it would have to control and operate all the elevators, and that it would not be dealing adequately with the situation to control less than the whole, for the reasons that have been brought up in the little discussion that the minister and I have just had

across the floor. That is to say, the position of the other elevators and the advantages they have in carrying on business might have the effect of minimizing the usefulness of the Government elevator. As a matter of fact, instead of the erection of this elevator putting the Government in control of the situation at the lake terminals, as I gather from the information given by the minister, the Government in the matter of this elevator is under control of the circumstances as they exist. We have not secured control of the situation, but the situation still controls us, notwithstanding the expenses that have 'been made. No doubt, the elevator has served a useful purpose as a means of education, but I think the information given by the minister would indicate that it has not got beyond that, and the chances are that it will never go beyond it.

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CON

George Eulas Foster (Minister of Trade and Commerce)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. FOSTER:

Whatever may be our

theories and prepossessions, every one of these steps taken is of the nature of an experiment. That, I think, my hon. friend will accept. He and I and other men are free in a sense, but we are wonderfully under control of conditions and circumstances, even the best and strongest of us. It is safe to say that the Government never could absolutely control the whole situation until it went back alongside the farmer and took possession of all the means of storage and transit of grain from the country elevator clear up to the other side of the ocean, where the grain finds a market. But I do not admit that the experiment made with the Government elevators, and the result of the operation, though that operation has covered but a brief time, has not had an excellent effect in putting us even with the situation, and next to the inner situation of things, and also in establishing what you might call a model elevator which is at the command of the public for what benefits they can derive from it.

I have mentioned I think all that the disadvantages, or if you like to call them so, the handicaps, of the Government elevator. On the other hand, I think it is a good asset simply because it is a Government elevator and is operated by expert men and has absolutely no self-interest in its operation. I think that in that respect it is doing a good service. The whole matter of Government elevators, internal and terminal, and the operation of those elevators, is in the experimental stage. We are putting our money into it and our efforts also,

and a good deal of brains and a good deal of application, in order to see how it will work out. It may not succeed to the extent of fulfilling the anticipations of all its former friends, but I am certain that it will succeed so far as to establish itself as a beneficent force in the operation of the Grain Act.

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LIB

Edward Walter Nesbitt

Liberal

Mr. NESBITT:

Might not the Government elevators at Calgary and Saskatoon act as feeders to that at the head of the lakes?

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CON

George Eulas Foster (Minister of Trade and Commerce)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. FOSTER:

If the hon. gentleman does not mind, this item deals wholly with administration. The subject to which he refers will come up on the next item.

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LIB

William Erskine Knowles

Liberal

Mr. KNOWLES:

If I remember well, when the minister (Mr. Foster) made his speech in introducing the Grain Act, two years ago, he spoke of doing justice to the. elevators at the head of the lakes, and said that in his opinion they were a pretty fair lot of people and did their business with fair honesty and competency. He says to-day, and of course it is quite true, that he has now had the opportunity of seeing the inner-workings of this trade. No doubt if there were undesirable practices there he would have a chance to see them. Is his mind as favourably disposed to these men as before, now that he has been in the field of experience ?

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CON

George Eulas Foster (Minister of Trade and Commerce)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. FOSTER:

I stated that we had had only a few months of operation, and that it is impossible to gauge the situation fairly until we have been in operation for at least one full year. There are parts of the operation of an elevator that we have not come to yet, as the .hon. gentleman knows, and it will take us a year at the very least to learn the operations which are carried on in an elevator. But I think that, broadly speaking, elevator men average up with others. There are two things to be noticed. In the first place, if we put a Government elevator there, operated in the most modern way, there will be an influence by example. The elevator men will feel that they have to make good because they are alongside of people who are making good, and who have no other aim but to make good. Then, they will feel that they are before public ' opinion, and there is a chance to contrast them with the Government elevator, and they will be on their good behaviour,-yes, on their better behaviour, because of their sensitiveness to public opinion. More than that, the work of a good strong board of 105

grain commissioners on the spot will, I tlink, afford an example and control and will have a good influence. There are none of us so good but that a little bit of hedging or restriction, either direct or coming from the future, is necessary to make us a little better.

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LIB

William Erskine Knowles

Liberal

Mr. KNOWLES:

I do not wish to say

anything critical with regard to this matter, but so far as I can make out, the minister says that because a Government elevator is operated by three commissioners and their employees, in some way the ordinary grain companies doing business in Fort William will be prevented rrom applying to their operations the ordinary tricks of the trade. I do not see why the hon. minister is so optimistic on tnat point. He says further that because these gentlemen are living right in Fort William, the fear of the Lord-for if the minister's words meant anything, they meant that- would in some way be kept before them. I do not think that his words carry conviction with them. My understanding was that the operation of the elevator there by the Government would tend to disclose the tricks of the trade that the other people were supposed to be carrying on, by which the farmers did not have justice done to them, and that the Government elevator would not indulge in such tricks of the trade, but would be run upon an entirely different basis. As far as I understand the remarks of the minister, he is unable to tell us that there is any trick of the trade used by the other corporations that he does not adopt himself. Of course, I do not mean to say that he has adopted them, but he1 is not able to show any difference in operation; he is simply operating this elevator the same as any company would operate it, and there is no more benefit to the people than ir any body of honourable gentlemen constituted themselves into a company and started a good elevator there, paying a million and a quarter for it. Is not that a fair statement of what the thing amounts to?

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CON

George Eulas Foster (Minister of Trade and Commerce)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. FOSTER:

I think another commentator could make a little change in the marginal references, if he tried to do so.

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LIB
CON

George Eulas Foster (Minister of Trade and Commerce)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. FOSTER:

I think it is fair to say that if you have the directing body of a Government grain system at the site of these terminal elevators, where they are in close proximity to and in constant conference with their supervising officers and the

machinery generally of the elevator, it goes without saying that, if these men are alive to their work, a better and stronger influence is exerted than if the minister of the department tries to do the work through a sub-officer, the minister being a thousand miles away and the sub-officer being at the place of business. I do not know that the men who are running the Canadian Pacific elevator there, for instance, are worse than the common run of humanity. The members of the Grain Growers' Grain Company, who run the Grain Growers' terminal there, are, I fancy, a good sample of their class of humanity. I would not, I mean, approach the matter with the idea of being suspicious, but everything that close supervision and careful attention can do to keep the methods in strict conjunction with the law is being done, and I think that in itself is a good influence.

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March 13, 1914